// Album Recommendation

Phosphorescent

Muchacho

(2013)

“I sat there all alone
Just cried and cried…
I saw the moonlight’s mirrored glow
On that old dirty city’s snow
I sat there feeling low.”

Muchacho Album Cover Phosphorescent

American Lo-Fi Indie Rock act Phosphorescent (a.k.a. Matthew Houck) released his sixth studio album, Muchacho, to widespread critical acclaim. Produced by Matthew Houck and largely recorded by him and a few key session players, Muchacho was conceived, when the singer/songwriter isolated himself in a small community in Mexico (due to mental and physical exhaustion after a tour in support of his previous album, Here’s To Taking It Easy). Muchacho took shape, as Matthew Houck went on solitary walks in the woods and swam in the lakes. The rollicking 1970s Country-Rock of Here’s To Taking It Easy (think Willie Nelson and early Eagles) still permeates much of Muchacho, but the singer/songwriter has added an unorthodox element in the shape of electronic instrumentation. While this unlikely marriage initially seems like an odd combination, it actually works and makes for a fascinating, creative and distinguished album.

The song that opens Muchacho – the tranquil, hymnal-like Sun, Arise! – captivates and enchants, as subtle, soft ripples of crystal-clear synth and multi-tracked layers of ethereal, dreamlike vocals evoke images of warm, comforting rays of sunlight breaking through the trees and reflecting on the surface of water: the dawning of a new day and a new beginning (“Sun a-rising. Ease. Easy oh / Dark as I been. Ease. Easy oh”). The upbeat Ride On/Right On rides on a simple, electronic backing track and crunchy, slightly distorted electric guitar sound effects, and Terror In The Canyons (The Wounded Master) is an elegant, ‘70s-indebted, mid-tempo Country ballad graced by violin, upright piano and softly pattering bongos.

A Charm/A Blade’s first verse is all hushed introspection, upon which the song abruptly shifts into a spirited Waltz of a sing-along chorus. Judging by the world-weary lyrics to Muchacho’s Tune, it deals with the consequences of success, money, fame and drugs, how Matthew Houck coped with it, and how he didn’t like who he’d become (“I found some fortune, found some fame / I found they cauterized my veins / Hey, I’ve been fucked up / And I’ve been a fool”), sentiments that are further enhanced by his melancholic lead vocal and a muted mariachi trumpet solo (the album cover shows a seemingly stoned-out-of-his-mind Matthew Houck in the company of, one presumes, a groupie). The epic The Quotidian Beasts, Muchacho’s centerpiece, is a seven-minutes-long Tour de Force carried by a haunting vocal, a quietly intense Psych-Rock number that soars and brings the album to its climax. And what an album it is. Skillfully written, arranged, recorded, produced and engineered, Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck is an extremely talented singer, songwriter and musician with impeccable taste and an impressive attention to detail.  

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